Q.—MS: Why did you decide to accept this project for a term long assignment?
A.—TS: We accepted this project because no design educational institution (or agency) has ever partnered with Pantone at this level. This was a unique creative opportunity for both the Academy of Art University and Pantone to explore a new frontier together. Typically, Pantone's expertise and color matching system is utilized for commercial purposes by designers. This collaboration was built on the idea of using design plus color to create positive social change.
John and I knew that having Pantone in the classroom as an actual client would be a tremendous learning opportunity for these students —to immerse themselves in the creative process, from beginning to end and getting realtime feedback at the same time. It was an offer we couldn't pass up.
Q.—MS: John, What were your and Tom's hopes for the outcome?
A.—JB: My hopes were to create an environment that fostered strong conceptual thinking and collaboration. The journey was truly the reward in this instance. In the end, I'd say that everyone involved could walk away feeling proud about what they achieved. To see the students engaging with real world clients always provides a tremendous benefit to the learning process. We both understood that the Pantone brand is so important to what we do as designers. Working together on a project that had a social cause in mind challenged our students to go beyond what they thought was possible.
Q.—MS: How was it to work with the client from Pantone?
A.—TS: Giovanni Marra, from Pantone, was very generous with his time and commitment to this project. He treated our class like an environment between a client/designer. Throughout the course of this project, Gio provided very constructive feedback and guidance for each team and made this process very collaborative. We created a space where students felt empowered to make mistakes, ask questions and push the work.
Q.—MS: What do you think the five top things that the students learned while doing this?
A.—TS & JB: We both agreed that each student walked away with the ability and experience of working for a social cause; collaboration as a team; presenting to a real world client with real world concerns and visually communicating an idea across multiple deliverables.
Q.—MS: How do you guys feel about the final presentation?
A.—TS & JB: For us, it was a proud day when each team presented their final projects in a mature, professional way—along with a healthy dose of passion. They had embraced the project in a way that gave them all a sense of design's potential to make real and meaningful change. Some of the projects produced by Team Bully, Team Blindness, Team Nation, Team Literacy used color to tell very compelling stories and motivated action. This was a key filter that Giovanni Marra, from Pantone, used to look at the work. He would consistently ask each team, "Why should I care and what is it that you're asking me to do?"
Now that the semester is over, some teams are still refining their projects. This shows a level of commitment that is rare and inspiring. It just shows how passionate they are about this project. These are the type of design students I would want to hire after they leave school.
Q.—MS: Can you talk more about the continued involvement with Pantone?
A.—TS & JB: Because of the success and results that came out of this collaboration, Pantone has expressed interest in possibly repeating this partnership again with the Academy of Art University for Spring 2013. Both parties see the value of using this model as an incubator for innovative, creative thinking. In a real world setting, sometimes clients tend to forget or fear asking the "why" and "why not" questions. This is great opportunity to push those boundaries.
Q.—MS: What were the final thoughts that you both shared with the students:?
A.—TS & JB: You have the permission to create change. Don't wait for someone to tell you how.
Take risks in your career and design. Avoid predictability in your work. Your design skills are simply tools. How you think and communicate defines who you are. Design with a greater purpose, and not just for a showcase of your personal style.
Team Bully Shares their thoughts: So, after talking with the mentors of this project, I turned to the students who were the winners of the competition, "Team Bully" and asked them to reflect back on the experience. They had some insightful and profound things to say. Upon learning about the assignment at the first class session, Cassia The, one of the four members of Team Bully says, "When we saw the first slide which said: Pantone + AAU, I was immediately excited. Just knowing that we were collaborating with Pantone was cause for huge excitement." When asked about the most important things they learned, member Elizabeth West notes, "Getting away from the computer and doing solid research. Research is everything. I know our message would not have been nearly as effective had we not gone to Our Lady of Mercy School in Daly City, spent time to made sure that everyone with the kids, talked with the principal, and believed in what we were doing." When asked how it was to work with a real client, member Maritess Desiderio said: "Giovanni, we called him Gio almost didn't feel like a client because they he was so down to earth, gave us such helpful feedback, talked about color and always said 'how can you make me care about your project." Cassia The said: "This was the real deal, a great project and a great client." Member Angela Tolosa said "I learned that design is organic, color can change everything, good design is problem solving, not just making something pretty, kids have the potential to make the biggest impact on culture and society and above all else, do it because you believe in it and work with people who share that same vision."
Elizabeth West talked about preparing for their final presentation and said "we rehearsed over and over, removing anything that wasn't necessary and tried to make sure that we were communicating our ideas clearly...we added a slideshow of all our photos taken throughout the semester and played a song at the end of the presentation, which really helped to personalize it. When we heard the results of the competition announced at our Spring Show, it felt amazing. We weren't worried about winning, just about doing a great job, but to have people acknowledge your work and connect with it was really incredible. Member Angela Tolosa, followed on with this: "I will cherish this semester for life."
I think that says it all., higher learning indeed.